« Muddled by media law | Main | Cut a little deeper »

"Where Solemnity Palls"

Strong feature writing is simple, clear, orderly and free of labored mannerisms and tricks that call attention to the writing itself rather than the substance. (Cappon 95)

And in the example feature articles found near the end of Chapter 11 of the AP Guide to News Writing, this point is demonstrated with awesome force.

I was stunned by Jerry Schwartz' snagging portrayal of the lifestyle of John Krieger, an elderly man with Down's syndrome -- a fantastic flight through the facts surrounding his condition that soars, playfully aloft, on the warm currents of the anecdotes, description, and quotes scattered throughout the story. It's beautiful in its simplicity.

Schwartz' article does an excellent job of pleasing the reader by taking a man's mental problem -- a potential social stigma -- and peeling it away to reveal the carefree soul beneath. It also informs the public with some brief statistics and background information, thus achieving both of feature writing's main objectives; "The feature, after all, is intended to please as well as to inform" (Cappon 104).

Of course, there are other good examples of feature writing within Chapter 11, but Schwartz' story stood out as the most effective in my mind.

Aside from my admiration for these articles, I came away from my reading with an improved understanding and confidence about my own news feature writing, particularly with respect to the various structures that feature articles typically use. Though there is tremendous freedom for the writer with respect to choices of style and tone, there are some helpful guidelines that may be applied to the organization:

  • Unlike hard news stories, feature stories can start without immediately addressing the point of the story; however, it is important not to bury the point too deeply.
  • Moving from the specific to the general, rather than from the general to the specific, is usually extremely effective in feature writing.
  • Hard news spawns from events, whereas feature stories spawn from ideas. Therefore, don't write a "premeditated lead," before you start investigating and interviewing sources; you'll limit your article needlessly from the very beginning. Allow for the free flow of ideas until you find an angle that will work to captivate your audience.
  • Feature stories often benefit from a chronological structure.

I suppose that as a creative writer I have a special appreciation for the style of feature articles, and I am overjoyed to find myself in familiar territory, at last.

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Comments

I agree, as a creative writer, feature writing seems to allow more ideas, than simply watered-down re-used topics that are covered in the news daily.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)